Sunday, May 27, 2012

Report Your Minnesota Work-Related Injury

There are over 1.8 million workplace injuries reported in the United States every year. A third of these injuries result in lost time from work. The bigger problem is that up to twice as many, or as many as 3.6 million workplace injuries go unreported every year!

There are many reasons an injured worker may not report his or her injury: fear of being fired or retaliated against, wanting to avoid being seen as “difficult,” not wanting to look like a “wimp,” not being aware of their rights under workers’ compensation, not wanting to deal with the workers’ compensation system, not being aware that it is a covered workers’ compensation injury, or being asked by their employer not to report the injury. Almost invariably, it is in your best interest to report your work injuries! 

Failure to report your injury can potentially ruin your workers’ compensation case, and bar you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits, such as medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and/or rehabilitation benefits. If your unreported work injury worsens, and you can’t work anymore, and you need extensive medical care, it’s far more difficult to try to go back and time and allege that your injury was work-related months or years after the fact.

Even if you are able to subsequently prove, after an extended period of time, that your injury was work-related, if you failed to report the injury to your employer, you may still be barred from recovering some kinds of workers’ compensation benefits.

Here’s a real life case: I recently spoke with a gentleman who recently underwent extensive neck surgery. His doctors are telling him he will never work again. He injured his neck at work. As I’m talking to him, I’m thinking to myself that this is a clear-cut case, and he will be entitled to benefits to cover his medical expenses, and his time off work.

Then he drops the bomb: He liked his job, and he thought that he might lose his job if he reported that his injury was work-related. So, he told his manager that he got hit by a car.


I may be able to salvage his case, I may not. I’m going to try. By trying to be the “good guy,” and not reporting that his injury was work-related, he very may well have ruined his chances at getting the workers’ compensation benefits he would clearly otherwise be entitled to.

Moral of the story: If you’re hurt on the job, report your injury. At bottom line, by failing to report your injury, or being dishonest about the circumstances of your injury, you are only hurting yourself. Should your injury worsen to the point where you’re no longer able to do your job, or if you find yourself needing extensive medical care, and you failed to report your injury, you’ve seriously jeopardized your ability to successfully claim the workers’ compensation benefits you’re entitled to. Reporting your injury protects YOU.

If you have an on-the-job injury in Minnesota, and have questions about reporting your injury, contact Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email for a free, no-obligation case consultation. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Does Workers’ Compensation Affect My Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) Benefits?

Under the Social Security rules, the total amount of your workers’ compensation benefits and social security benefits cannot exceed eighty percent (80%) of your average monthly earnings before you became disabled.

If your combined benefits exceed 80% of your pre-disability average monthly earnings, your social security benefits likely will be reduced. Minnesota workers’ compensation wage loss benefits are paid at a rate of 2/3 or 66.6% of your average weekly wage (AWW) at the time of your injury. For most people receiving both workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits, your social security benefits will be reduced, but not entirely offset.

When a workers’ compensation case is settled, we usually incorporate what we refer to as “Social Security” language into the Stipulation for Settlement, or the document that sets forth the terms of the settlement. In essence, this language prorates the lump sum settlement over the employee’s life expectancy. In determining whether and to what extent any offset is applicable, the Social Security Administration utilizes the prorated figures set forth in the language of the Stipulation for Settlement.

For example, assume we have a 55 year old male, born on January 1, 1956, that has settled his Minnesota workers’ compensation case for a lump sum of $35,000.00 for a close out of indemnity (monetary) benefits. According to the social security life expectancy tables, this gentleman has a life expectancy of 24.87 years, or 298.44 months.

In this case, the "Social Security" language would look something like this:
Of the $35,000.00 settlement amount, the sum of $7,200.00 is to be paid to the claimant’s attorney as fees. The claimant is currently 55 years old, having been born on January 1, 2956, and has a life expectancy of 24.87 years, or 298.44 months. The balance of $27,800.00 shall be paid to the claimant and shall represent a compromise payment of weekly indemnity benefits over the projected term of the claimant’s life expectancy of 298.44 months at the rate of $93.15 per month, or $23.29 per week. 
The advantage to incorporating this language is that the lump sum payment is stretched out over a longer period of time than most employees would be actually entitled to payment of benefits. By prorating the lump sum payment, or stretching it out over an employee’s lifetime, it minimizes any applicable Social Security offsets for the simultaneous receipt of Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits.

Individuals who are eligible for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits as the result of a work-related injury are also typically eligible for Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits. If you’re receiving SSDI benefits as a result of a disabling injury you received on the job, or if you’re currently receiving both SSDI benefits and workers’ compensation benefits, contact Meuser & Associate for a free, no-obligation case consultation. Call us at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Tears

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is a wide, thick band of tissue that runs down the inner part of the knee from the thighbone to a point on the shinbone about four to six inches from the knee. The MCL prevents the leg from extending too far inward, helps keep the knee stable, and allows the knee to rotate.

Injuries to the MCL can happen when the knee is hit directly from its outer side, causing the ligaments on the inside of the knee to stretch too far or to tear. It is not uncommon to tear the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the same time. The MCL can also be injured through repeated stress, which can cause the ligament to lose its normal stretch and elasticity.

Symptoms of an MCL tear can include:
  • Pain, the severity of which depends on the severity of the tear 
  • Stiffness 
  • Swelling 
  • Tenderness along the inside of the knee 
  • Instability, or a feeling that your knee may give out 
  • Locking or catching 
Depending on the degree of pain or looseness of the knee joint, the MCL tear will be classified as:

Grade I: Some tenderness and minor pain at the injury site.
Grade II: Noticeable looseness of the knee with manual movement, major pain and tenderness at the inside of the knee, and swelling.
Grade III: Significant pain and tenderness at the inside of the knee, swelling, marked joint instability with manual movement. A grade III MCL tear is often accompanied by an ACL tear.

Tears of the MCL usually respond well to non-surgical treatment, including rest, bracing, over-the-counter pain relievers, and physical therapy. If surgery is required, it is usually done through a small incision on the inside of the knee. If the MCL has become torn where it attaches to the thighbone or shinbone, the surgeon will re-attach the ligament to the bone using large stitches or a metal screw or bone staple. If the tear is in the middle of the ligament, the surgeon will sew the torn ends together.

If you’ve sustained an MCL tear as a result of a work-related injury, you may be eligible for Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and /or rehabilitation benefits. For a free, no-obligation case consultation, call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Am I Required to Turn Over My Medical and Financial Information to the Insurer? Discovery Disclosure in Minnesota Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Claims

Do I have to turn over my private medical and financial information to the insurance company as part of my Minnesota workers' compensation or personal injury claim?

We frequently get calls from our Minnesota personal injury and workers’ compensation clients wondering why they must sign authorizations for the release of their medical records, tax information, and wage records. While it’s not necessarily a pleasant thing to turn over your private health information and financial information to an insurance company, if you’re bringing a personal injury claim or workers’ compensation claim, in some respects, your life becomes an open book. So, yes, generally, you are required to turn over your medical and financial information to the insurance company as part of the discovery process in a Minnesota personal injury or workers’ compensation claim. 

If you are bringing a personal injury action in Minnesota against an at-fault person or entity, and you’re claiming damages for medical expenses and wage loss as a result of the injuries you sustained in an accident, you are generally obligated to disclose your medical information and financial information if you are claiming that you’re entitled to compensation for medical expenses and wage loss.

Generally speaking, in a personal injury action in Minnesota, if you’re asked to disclose information as part of the discovery process of your case, you are obligated to turn over anything that is reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. Admissible evidence includes anything that is relevant, and tends to prove or disprove a fact of the case. Medical records after an accident obviously document your injuries, and they are clearly relevant to determining the nature and extent of your injuries. Financial records after an accident clearly document any loss of earnings you’ve suffered due to your injuries, and they are clearly relevant to determining the extent of your wage losses.

Where things get a little more complicated is disclosure of medical records and financial information in existence prior to your accident, and people often question why the insurance company should have access to this information. In essence, your prior medical history and your prior financial history are also relevant to a determination of your damages. For example, if you have a pre-existing condition, the insurance company will argue that your damages after an accident are partly attributable to your pre-existing condition. An insurance company may also argue that your prior financial records indicate that your income decreased prior to the accident due to the economic downturn, rather than as a result of the accident. Even if you don’t have a pre-existing condition, and even if you did not have a decrease in your earnings prior to the accident, the insurance company and the defendant have a right to examine your medical records and your financial information in existence prior to the accident to make their own independent determination as to whether or not there is any relevant information contained in your records.

In Minnesota workers’ compensation claims, the same general concepts, as set forth above, apply to the disclosure of medical records and income records, but the rules of discovery are somewhat more limited. For example, you are obligated to disclose the names of any medical providers you’ve ever seen for the same condition, or a similar condition, to the one you’ve alleged as part of your claim. You are also required to allow the release of your medical records from these practitioners. You’re not necessarily obligated to release other medical information, but if the workers’ compensation insurer has reason to believe that your other medical information contains relevant evidence, they can petition the judge to require you to disclose additional medical information.

You're also required to disclose any wage or income documentation that is relevant to your claim for wage loss benefits. The workers’ compensation insurer will generally be able to obtain your wage records directly from your employer, but if you’ve been self-employed in addition to your regular wages, or you’ve been self-employed in the recent past, you may be required to authorize the release of your tax information. If you’ve worked at other jobs subsequent your injury, you are also required to disclose your wage records from your other employers.

Going through the discovery process in a disputed Minnesota personal injury action or Minnesota workers’ compensation claim is not always a pleasant experience, but it is necessary. If you have questions about your rights under Minnesota personal injury or workers’ compensation law, contact Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email.

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